Unclear if Guptas will be charged

2013-05-19 21:34
Jeff Radebe. (File, Sapa)

Jeff Radebe. (File, Sapa)

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Cape Town - The police and NPA were responsible for deciding whether the Gupta family would be prosecuted for the irregular landing of their plane at Waterkloof Air Force base, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said on Sunday.

"That's the decision of the national police commissioner [Riah Phiyega], with her officers," Radebe said.

"Who has to be prosecuted? That decision has to be taken by the National Prosecuting Authority, which they must do without any fear, favour or prejudice and no one, including the minister, can interfere in those prosecutorial decisions."

Radebe was delivering a summary of the findings of an investigation by several ministers into the landing of a privately chartered plane by the Gupta family at the Waterkloof Air Force base on April 29.

The plane carried 270 guests who were attending the wedding of Vega Gupta, 23, and Indian-born Aakash Jahajgarhia at Sun City. The landing sparked widespread criticism.

In March, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her adviser were approached by the Gupta family on different occasions, said Radebe.

"On 3 April 2013 this request was also turned down."

The Gupta family then resorted to the use of diplomatic channels with the support of an individual in the Indian High Commission.

This person "re-designated the wedding entourage as an official delegation" to enable them to use the base under the cover of diplomatic privilege, said Radebe.

The aircraft was cleared for landing and the correct clearance procedures were followed.

False information

However, this was based on false information and abuse of privileges, by a group who acted in common purpose.

These included Chief of State Protocol Bruce Koloane, who acted in contravention of existing diplomatic protocols, and Waterkloof's officer commanding movement control, Lieutenant Colonel C Anderson.

Metro police officers were also found to have moonlighted contrary to regulations, carrying their firearms outside their jurisdiction and driving vehicles fitted illegally with blue lights.

"In the interest of the safety of all road users and taking into account that 121 vehicles were deployed by the event organiser, it was necessary that law enforcement officers take charge of the convoy to Sun City," Radebe said.

He said that due to the lack of vigilance of certain SA Police Service members, some cars fitted with these illegal blue lights pushed people off the road, caused delays and inconvenienced other road users.

"The public outcry that followed was therefore justified."

The event organisers paid for 296 security officers and deployed two fixed-wing aircraft and seven helicopters to ferry their guests from the base to Sun City.

Radebe said these flight authorisations formed part of the clearance already issued for the main flight.

False registration

He also confirmed that all helicopters used on the day were organised and funded by the Gupta family, and did not belong to the SA Defence Force or the police.

"All of the black BMW's used in the convoys were hired from a private company. Three Range Rovers had similar registration numbers; two Mercedes Benz had similar registration numbers; three of the BMW's had false registration," he said.

The report found that 194 government personnel and 88 government vehicles were deployed during the operation.

Asked whether the Guptas had landed at local air bases in the past, Radebe said he was not aware of "similar incidents".

International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the flight incident had not affected relations between South Africa and India, and that they remained "solid and sound".

She said government would share the report's findings with Indian authorities, following due diplomatic processes.


Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor said the Guptas' citizenship would not be withdrawn.

"We have strict tests in our laws with respect to loss of citizenship and that relates primarily to how one acquires it. If you acquire citizenship by fraudulent means or by false declaration, then you might lose citizenship," she said.

"However, if you commit an infraction of some kind in South Africa, the usual course of the law would follow and you will be charged in terms of the law. So there's no withdrawing of citizenship confronting us at this conference."

Radebe said he was not aware of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela conducting her own investigation into the matter.

The full ministers' report is expected to be made public during the course of next week.

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